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By Jeannie Baumann
May 12 — The Senate may not match the House's time line to vote this summer on a bill to speed the delivery of treatments and cures to patients, a Republican lawmaker working on the Senate effort indicated in a May 12 policy discussion.
“We only get one shot at getting this right,” Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.) said, adding that the Senate has historically moved at a slower pace than the House. “So call me a creature of the Senate. I’m not as concerned with the speed with which we write it. I am concerned with the accuracy with which we actually achieve in the legislation.”
Burr made his remarks one day after the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced a May 14 markup by the health subcommittee of the 21st Century Cures bill, which currently is in draft form . Burr was one of two keynote speakers interviewed by The Hill at the policy discussion, Next Generation Cures, which was organized by the news publication. He co-authored a report, “Innovation for Healthier Americans,” with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
“I think that the Senate will produce our own bill,” Burr said. “That’s a bill that I would expect we would have in conference. I won’t tell you what the timeline is because I don’t know.”
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the other keynote interviewee, said “it seems reasonable that fall would be a timeline.”
“Certainly we have things in the queue, and it’s going to line up, but we’ve had hearings on this,” he said.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who's leading the 21st Century Cures initiative with Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), has said previously that he wants to have a floor vote in June and a bill enacted by the end of 2015. Alexander, who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has said in previous hearings on medical innovation that he expects the Senate to take action during the current congressional session . Burr and Cassidy also are members of the HELP Committee.
During his interview, Burr said several times that although he supports proposals to boost funding for medical research, any funding increases to the National Institutes of Health's budget need to be accompanied by changes at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Without a predictable reimbursement system and a way to shorten the approval time for new drugs and devices, “then just throwing more money into it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to have the impact to the U.S. health-care system and to the world,” Burr said.
He also said Congress alone won't be able to change the system; it will take a cooperative effort between the public and private sectors.
“We've got to leverage public research dollars against private research dollars. We've got to make sure that there's a pathway that's understandable to make it through not only approval, but reimbursement,” Burr said. “So this is something that incorporates the NIH, the FDA, CMS, every company, every researcher, and the unbelievable amount of venture capital dollars that are really going to be the seed money to fuel that next up-start.”
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More information on the policy discussion is available at http://thehill.com/event/234900-next-generation-cures-a-policy-discussion.
Burr and Alexander's report is available at http://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/Innovation_for_Healthier_Americans.pdf.
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